LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Bacteria-infested is water putting Florida beachgoers on alert. State health officials say at least nine people have died so far this year in Florida from what's called "Vibrio Vulnificus," which tends to live in warm seawater.
A Central Florida man died Monday from exposure to the flesh-eating bacteria and one Lee County family says it's here too.
WINK News is not releasing the name of the patient to protect her privacy at this time but her family says they wanted to warn others.
Relatives say it started with a day of boating on the Gulf near Sanibel Island but ended with a life-threatening infection. The patient, a woman in her 60s, came to Southwest Florida for a vacation but is now lying in a hospital bed.
"She has been very ill since and when they finally got the tests back to determine what it was it was this bacterial infection that is found in sea water," her cousin said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the bacterium normally lives in warm seawater and is in the same family as Cholera. symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
"They had to remove the flesh that had literally died in surgery and now she will have to go through a skin graph to correct that because it is a large area," her relative stated.
Florida health officials say nine people have died from the bacteria in Florida so far this year, including a 59-year-old man in Volusia County Monday.
"Big increase in vibrio infections. It is kind of a warm water thing, and we have some warm water, but we didn't have this last year or the year before. Not nearly as many," said Dr. Todd Husty with Seminole County EMS.
The cousin of the local patient says they're treating the infection with an aggressive round of antibiotics and praying for a recovery.
"We are very fortunate that we still have our relative but she is still fighting every day that infection and it's one day at a time," she said.
Officials are warning people to avoid eating raw fish and protecting open wounds in seawater. As of Sunday night, hospital officials say the patient is in stable condition.